Hugo Gernsback’s 1905 TELIMCO Wireless Set


Shown here is apparently the first ever advertisement for a home radio set. It appeared in Scientific American, January 13, 1906.  The manufacturer, the Electro Importing Company, was the venture of none other than Hugo Gernsback, the prolific radio and science fiction writer and the namesake of the science fiction Hugo awards.

Gernsback wrote about this set a half century later in the March 1956 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine, which he edited.  In the article, he recounts having started the company in 1905, at which time there were few wireless stations. Therefore, it was necessary to sell both a transmitter and receiver. The set was named the TELIMCO, a contraction of the company’s name. Only a handful of the sets were sold in 1905, but he began quantity production in 1906 and took out the ad in Scientific American.

In addition to selling the sets by mail order, it “was sold through many large outlets, including such famous ones as Macy’s, Gimbel’s and F.A.O. Schwartz.” He recounted the “incredulous looks of many of the store owners when there were first approached to buy ‘wireless sets.’ It was necessary to make a demonstration in each case before anyone would stock them.”

The set was originally priced at $7.50, but the price was later raised to $10, and most were sold for that price. The transmitter, powered by three dry cells, consisted of a spark coil and spark gap consisting of two balls 1/8 inch apart.

The receiver consisted of a coherer, which was wired to a very sensitive relay which ran a bell. The bell was set in such a way as to dislodge the iron and silver filings in the coherer.

According to Gernsback, the set had a range of about 300-500 feet without an external ground connection. With an elevated antenna 50-100 feet long and a good ground, many users were able to get reception over the promised one mile, with some reporting even greater distances.

The aerial wires on the transmitter itself, fashioned as a dipole, were about 1-1/2 feet long. Gernsback notes that the set had no tuning, but the antenna length indicates that the set was actually transmitting on frequencies above 30 MHz, long before those frequencies came into common usage.

In 1956, Gernsback built a recreation of the early transmitter, which is currently in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.  It is pictured in the book Henry’s Attic: Some Fascinating Gifts to Henry Ford and His Museum.  You can also read more about the set at The Gernsback Story by Ed Raser W2ZI.




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